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Elmer, Missouri - Early History
Remembering When ... Elmer Was a Social Hub
(Reprinted from the La Plata Home Press, November 10, 1993)
In 1904, an election was held to consolidate several schools in the area. The issue passed, combining the Elmer, Mercyville and Gunnels school districts. The Elmer Consolidated School District became the first consolidated public school in Macon County. The 6-room brick building was erected in 1905. the Elmer C-1 district later annexed several other districts, providing a need for expanded staff and facilities. In 1952, local donations allowed the construction of a new gymnasium and classroom building. However, by 1967, the economy had changed, and the population had shifted to other areas. That year, Elmer began transporting high school students to other school districts, but continues their elementary program to this day.
Elmer was once home to at least four houses of worship. The First Universalist Church was built by J. C. Patterson, in 1892. The church became inactive during the late 1920's or early 1930's. The First Baptist Church was organized in 1894, followed by the Elmer Christian Church in 1907, and the Elmer Assembly of God Church in 1925. Other churches in the area included the Little Zion Primitive Baptist Church and the Chariton Ridge Baptist Church.
Elmer had her share of social life. The community was the home of an impressive opera house at the turn of the century. The opera was built on top of Henry Miller's general store, in 1900. It featured such attractions as silent movies, plays, exhibitions and travelling "Troupes", who made circuit in north Missouri in those days.
In addition to the opera house, Elmer residents kept themselves busy in the various social organizations that called the community home.
Organizations in Elmer have included: Campfire Girls, Royal Neighbors of America, Masonic Lodge A.F and A.M - 1920-1970; I.O.O.F. Lodge, Elmer Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star - 1922-1971; Rebekah Lodge - 1925-1971; Worthwhile Club - 1928-1962; Elmer Fortnightly Club M.F.W.C. - 1928-1980-; Carter Howe Post 24 of the American Legion - 1935; Boy Scout Troup 80 - 1951-1957; Chariton Valley Fox Hunters Association - 1954; Elmer Senior Citizens - 1972 and the Elmer Cemetery Association - 1914; incorporated in 1965.
Elmer has sent their young off to military duty in the Mexican War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and most recently the Persian Gulf War.
People who grew up in Elmer's youth remember skating parties at the Santa Fe bar pits, near the south edge of town, and watching the old steam engines roar through the countryside. They also remember the Old Settlers Reunions, held annually as early as the 1890's. Large crowds gathered from miles around on the grounds where the Elmer City Park is now located.
In those days, there was also an excursion steamer, the MAYFLOWER, operating on the Chariton River. The boat floated the distance between Sloan's Point and Yarrow from about 1896 to 1900. The MAYFLOWER had a capacity of 50 persons, and was considered a "fair weather craft", since trips could by made comfortably only on sunny days.
Around the middle of the century, a Planned Progress Program promoted community development in Elmer. The town has included a City Council and Mayor form of government since 1960, when citizens voted their town a fourth class city. A municipal water system was constructed in 1962, after local voters approved a bond issue.
On April 16, 1976, Elmer, Missouri, was officially designated a Bicentennial Community. In respect to their designation, the community vowed to restore and preserve the Shirley Cemetery, where an American Revolution War veteran is buried, in addition to several of the communities early settlers.
Although the years and the economy have dealt hard blows to Elmer, the town does still exist. In 1969, the Elmer depot, which was, in effect, the first business in Elmer, was torn down and replaced by a sign designating the rail location as Elmer. In the community's early days, a majority of its men were employed by the railroad. Today, only a few railroad workers are employed from the Elmer area.